by National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
On November 19, thousands of students will march on Parliament to demand an end to tuition fees and education cuts as well as the abolition of student debt.
England is now the most expensive country in Europe to attend university, and it’s not just home students that suffer – international students fees are uncapped and rise throughout the course of their degrees. A prime and shocking example of this is UCL. Supposedly London’s Global University, fees to study medicine there have risen by roughly six thousand pounds over the length of a course for international students – and they aren’t rising from a low baseline either: an international medical fresher this year pays £29,900. Per year. Coupled with soaring living costs and falling maintenance loans which increase below the rate of inflation, it is clear to see that everyone but the richest is being priced out of a university education.
Education is a social good which benefits us all. It should be free and funded by progressive taxation. That means taxing the rich, cracking down on those who own far more homes than they need and stamping out the tax avoidance cherished by big businesses. This is the model of education funding seen in countries across the world, and it is winnable here – think about the recent news from Germany where higher education is now free in all states, including for international students.
Just scrapping fees is not enough. There is a lot of talk about this demonstration being proactive in the run up to the general election, and demanding something positive rather than waiting for a fee raise before we protest again. This is a very reasonable thing to think, but when asking for the scrapping of fees we should be looking beyond parliamentary politics and asking them nicely and to tearing down the system and starting again. We don’t just want to scrap tuition fees though, we want a radically transformed education system; a liberated curriculum which is democratically controlled by workers and students; living grants and living wages for all at all levels of education.
The national demonstration is a massive rallying point for student activists across the country, and in the last couple of months of organising we have witnessed a massive burst in the number of education activist groups springing up – on campuses where you would least expect them, such as Bath and Chichester, and in schools and colleges across the UK. The best legacy of our work will be the continuation of these groups on November 20, not just a massive demonstration.
The student movement in Germany won after ten years of sustained actions, strikes and marches. We need local waves of action which involve a far broader section of the community than a national demonstration. Get active on your campuses: occupy, blockade and resist on December 3 and organise in your workplace and your college and bring the fight to your hometown; work with Unions and local groups to march on your city on December 6.
We will not win this alone, and we will not win it just by passing policy in student unions; we will win with a movement which joins with others in society, and we will win by occupying, organising and agitating in our colleges, schools, communities and workplaces. The national demonstration is just the beginning; use it to find each other, make contacts and friends and to experience the freedom of roaming the streets. Take part in direct action and disrupt the life of the city.